The Financial Intelligence Unit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has certainly been the hardest working organisation in the nation since lockdown started. They have made various attempts to go after channels used by parallel market dealers in a bid to arrest the depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar. First going for the popular mobile money platforms and later Steward Bank and Ecocash parent Cassava felt the heat too. Realising a loophole was left open they went for Zimswitch platform ZIPIT to limit transactions to one per day. The RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya announced they would be ambushing parallel market dealers. Now they’ve gone after internal bank transfers which represented the remaining transfer based channel for the parallel market.
The Directive instructs Banks to limit customers to two transactions per day with no value limits on them. RTGS transfers have no limits placed on them, however. An exception has been made where customers who need to transact via internal bank transfer more than twice in a single day can apply for approval from the bank at a branch or head office level, however, these transactions will be reported to the FIU daily.
Internal transfers remained useful to parallel market participants because they take around 30 minutes for payments to reflect whereas RTGS inter-bank transfers take anywhere between 24 and 72 hours, not useful to a practice that requires expediency. Reports were emerging that while the pressure on Ecocash had reduced the exchange rate via that platform to somewhere in the mid-50s for a single US dollar. Meanwhile, via bank transfer, it remained in the range of 73 to 76 for the same unit.
All credit to the FIU for eventually getting to it however it does show a very sloppy operation at best. All these moves could and should have been made in one fell swoop had the organisation been applying any intelligence whatsoever. These conduits were always known and used by many. It paints a picture of an organisation that is either clueless or not committed to the task at hand.
With their most expedient conduits blocked or constrained those responsible for the parallel market are likely to favour cash. We should expect to see more retailers and business people favouring cash and US dollar cash over electronic forms of payment and punitive rate may be applied to these forms of pricing. The new $20 notes are expected this month. The goal of easing cash shortages is long forgotten by citizens and these notes will serve to save space in wallets and purses. If you can get your hands on them.